A Fifty-year Silence

A Fifty-year Silence

Love, War, and A Ruined House in France

Book - 2015
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A young woman moves across an ocean to uncover the truth about her grandparents' mysterious estrangement and pieces together the extraordinary story of their wartime experiences
In 1948, after surviving World War II by escaping Nazi-occupied France for refugee camps in Switzerland, the author's grandparents, Anna and Armand, bought an old stone house in a remote, picturesque village in the South of France. Five years later, Anna packed her bags and walked out on Armand, taking the typewriter and their children. Aside from one brief encounter, the two never saw or spoke to each other again, never remarried, and never revealed what had divided them forever.

A Fifty-Year Silence is the deeply involving account of Miranda Richmond Mouillot's journey to find out what happened between her grandmother, a physician, and her grandfather, an interpreter at the Nuremberg Trials, who refused to utter his wife's name aloud after she left him.  To discover the roots of their embittered and entrenched silence, Miranda abandons her plans for the future and moves to their stone house, now a crumbling ruin; immerses herself in letters, archival materials, and secondary sources; and teases stories out of her reticent, and declining, grandparents.  As she reconstructs how Anna and Armand braved overwhelming odds and how the knowledge her grandfather acquired at Nuremberg destroyed their relationship, Miranda wrestles with the legacy of trauma, the burden of history, and the complexities of memory.  She also finds herself learning how not only to survive but to thrive - making a home in the village and falling in love.

With warmth, humor, and rich, evocative details that bring her grandparents' outsize characters and their daily struggles vividly to life, A Fifty-Year Silence is a heartbreaking, uplifting love story spanning two continents and three generations.
Publisher: New York : Crown Publishers, [2015]
Edition: First edition.
ISBN: 9780804140645
Branch Call Number: 940.5318 RICHMOND
Characteristics: xiv, 271 pages : illustrations, maps ; 22 cm
Alternative Title: 50-year silence


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wendybird Aug 21, 2018

This book was suggested to me by one of those "if you read this, you might also like" book algorithms. The software wasn't wrong: : a brief glance at the summary (dust jacket "... in 1948, after surviving World War II by escaping the Nazis, and ending up in Swiss refugee camps, the author's grandparents bought a stone house in a remote village in the South of France...") told me the plot had potential for romance, some thrilling adventure, set in one of my favorite places.
It is a fine memoir, told as a series of interviews by writer Miranda Mouillet with her long-divorced grandparents. We follow along as she tries to unearth the title's mystery : neither elderly relative will explain either the marriage's demise nor the inexplicably magical (if ramshackle) home to her, let alone how they both survived war torn, demonically anti-Semitic Europe. The questions obsess her. She moves to France, and into the ramshackle Alba home.
Under the guise of higher education, she scours nearby archives, diaries, and official papers in search of plausible explanations. Her war-ravaged ancestors clearly loved each other as well as the house, at one point time: what happened? As Mouillet moves closer to an answer, the topsy-turvy lives of these two young Jews unrolls before us as an incredible, impossible, and sometime heart breaking story.

Jul 26, 2015

The author tells the story of her grandparents Anna and Armand's World War II experience fleeing Nazi-occupied France to work among other refugees in Switzerland. The antagonism they developed after their brief marriage is a mystery their granddaughter tries to solve.
Lovingly rendered by their granddaughter, this book tells a tale of two people in the greater story of the Holocaust and those left who must remember. It is also Miranda’s story coming of age.

Jul 02, 2015

Wishing to get to the heart of the antipathy between her maternal grandparents, the author starts a journey back through time. Anna and Armand, stateless Jews who spend World War II in a Swiss refugee camp, have a very brief marriage that produces two children. Anna, a physician, and Armand, a translator at the Nuremburg trials, separate after the war. Anna goes to America while Armand remains in Switzerland. As the author grows up, she becomes more curious about her grandparents' story. The author's journey ensues when her grandfather wants to sell his house in France and needs his wife's permission to do so. As Miranda negotiates her way through this hostile situation, she acquires a French husband and learns the truth about her grandparents' war.

ChristchurchLib Mar 16, 2015

"After surviving World War II, author Miranda Richmond Mouillot's grandparents, Armand and Anna, moved into a house in southern France, then emigrated to New York. Five years later, they separated and never reconciled. Miranda, born in 1981, grew up with only a vague idea of their wartime ordeals and why they separated. When she learned that the old house in France was being sold, she decided to move into it and do some research in family records, hoping to learn more about her grandparents' estrangement. A Fifty-Year Silence hauntingly depicts what Miranda discovered about them." Biography and Memoir March 2015 newsletter http://libraryaware.com/996/NewsletterIssues/ViewIssue/8b83e151-85a6-4a03-8ead-b05af98073dc?postId=c1e603a5-9688-4371-9057-6bc36165e997

Mar 06, 2015

I found this to be a fascinating book. The writer was skilled enough that I had to remind myself that I was not reading a novel, but reading a real life story about family relationships, difficult decisions and the story of two individuals caught up being Jewish in WWII France and Switzerland.

booklady413 Feb 13, 2015

A love story of sorts - the author's grandparents lived through WWII surviving in their own separate ways. Miranda's grandmother, Anna, was a physician, and her grandfather, Armand, an interpreter at the Nuerenberg trial. The author explores her grandparents' lives trying to explain their love and how the atrocities of that time period had played a part in the complicated lives of Anna and Armand; how understanding their lives, she could move forward in her own life.


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ArapahoeMarcia Aug 26, 2016

"Armand and Anna fell in love, bought a house, and never spoke again."


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